An innovative program designed to improve health care across the Barossa region has quickly demonstrated how integrating pharmacists into the primary care team improves treatment outcomes and reduces the risk of medication errors.
Funded by the Country SA PHN and delivered in partnership with PSA, the Pharmacist in General Practice project is underway in Tanunda, Kapunda and Angaston.
“Medicine is the most common way we treat health conditions in Australia,” PSA SA/NT Branch President, Robyn Johns said. “While medicines can be very good for us, unfortunately medication can also cause harm. PSA’s own research has found 250,000 Australians are hospitalised each year, with another 400,000 presenting to emergency departments, as a result of medication errors, inappropriate use, misadventure and interactions. At least half of these could have been prevented.
“PSA believes supporting pharmacists to spend more time in all health care settings is key to improving medicine safety and quality use of medicines. We commend Country SA PHN for initiating this program and working to incorporate pharmacists more comprehensively into the primary health care team.”
“Country SA PHN has been concerned about the preventable harm caused by medication mishaps in our communities. We are very pleased to fund and collaborate with the PSA to develop this program to help minimise these harms for our country South Australian communities,” said Country SA PHN Chief Executive Officer, Kim Hosking.
“Embedding pharmacists in our general practices is having a positive impact on the health of rural South Australians and can play an important role in minimising the number of medication-related hospital admissions.”
Local pharmacist Tanya Tran now spends four days a week in three Barossa general practices providing a range of services including medication reviews, advice and education, and liaison between the general practice, hospitals and community pharmacy.
“Since the project got underway in May 2019, patients have found it very valuable to be able to spend as much time as they need with a pharmacist in the general practice setting discussing their medications and any questions they might have,” Ms Tran revealed.
A qualified Diabetes Educator, Ms Tran’s engagement in general practice has expanded the support available to patients with this complex condition.
“We have recently conducted a trial designed to help people with diabetes manage their glucose and participants told me it has positively impacted their health and given them a new lease on life,” Ms Tran said.
“Part of my work is to liaise closely with community pharmacies in the region and keep up to date on medication availability. In recent months, our region has faced medication shortages and I can ensure general practitioners are not only kept informed of supply issues, but can access my expertise in terms of alternative treatments. I also provide advice on available new medications and medication guidelines. In this role, I can provide another set of eyes when it comes to medicine safety.”
Ms Tran has found her involvement in the project highly rewarding. “Working closely with the doctors in the practice and caring for patients has increased my clinical knowledge and ability,” Ms Tran said. “I feel like I learn something every day I am at work and have found this immensely satisfying.”
The Pharmacist in General Practice project is currently scheduled to run until June 2021.